Talk about heroes. For 75 years, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been providing life-saving care and life-changing assistance to refugees during humanitarian crises. “Our main focus is to aid displaced victims of violent conflict and natural disasters to help them recover and eventually rebuild communities and restore livelihoods,” says Melissa Winkler, Senior Director of Communications for the IRC. Their goal of on-the-ground disaster response within 72 hours of a crisis is nothing short of heroic.
With the funding that the organization just received from Members Project from American Express and TakePart, Winkler says the IRC will be able to respond quickly and get more aid to the places that need it most.
Members Project from American Express and TakePart is an online philanthropic program that’s open to anyone, and its goal is to provide everyone with the tools, information and inspiration to find ways to give back on their own terms. This spring, people all over the country cast their votes for the charities they thought deserved funding this quarter. Based on the results, American Express provided the winning charitable organizations with funding that can make a difference around the world.
In the area of Community Development, the IRC received the funding. So where will that money go? Let’s take a look at a few of their programs.
Their latest efforts in Haiti after the earthquake involve initial family tracing and child tracing, caring for families who have been separated. They’ve also been focused on water—improving and building sanitation, clearing drainage and through this, helping people get back into stable jobs within the economy. Education projects—first emergency and now moving into long-term solutions—are also a huge part of their work in Haiti.
“The largest project we have globally is in Congo,” says Winkler, “where years and years of chronic violence and instability are layered on top of serious poverty.” The IRC is working with communities to restore health and education systems in areas where there are still violent conflicts. The programs are emergency-focused—from distributing emergency supplies to responding to the needs of rape survivors.
In addition to their international work, the IRC has a huge resettlement program for refugees who arrive in the U.S. “They are so resilient and so many of them have become financially independent in a short period of time,” says Winkler. But the economic crisis has taken its toll. “It’s much harder for them to find jobs, get on their feet and be self-sufficient than it was in the past—we have to aggressively look for creative means to keep refugees afloat and help them get by.”
The funding from Members Project is critical for the IRC, says Winkler, especially during humanitarian emergencies. “This is flexible funding,” she explains. That lets the IRC use it wherever it’s needed most. “It gives us the ability to respond really quickly,” says Winkler. “We have an emergency response team that we send out to a scene when a crisis erupts, so we look to this kind of flexible funding in order to be able to dispatch these shelter, medical, sanitation and child trauma experts quickly in order to launch programs and save lives.”
It’s the type of funding the IRC uses when responding to crises in places like Haiti, and more recently Kyrgyzstan, where ethnic rioting has recently led to hundreds of deaths. “We’re just launching an emergency response in Kyrgyzstan,” says Winkler. “Donations like this allow us to move very quickly and help save lives at the very outset of an emergency.”
To find out more about Members Project and all the grant recipients, visit membersproject.com.